It’s not only people and places you’ll miss while you’re travelling long term; food from home can seem like a distant memory. When you’re all noodled and riced out in South East Asia and thoughts of Grandma’s Yorkshire pudding Sunday lunch start infiltrating your brain, there’s nothing that can quite match up.
In some of the most popular backpacker destinations local entrepreneurs have cottoned onto this and set up special British import food shops, but they’re never quite the same. A Cadbury’s Dairy Milk that’s travelled halfway around the world and sat in a sweaty shop for a few weeks is not going to be the same as one from your local Londis.
There’s just no getting around it, except for the thought that coming back to those familiar treats will be one of the few things that will soften the blow of coming home.
Here are the foods the gapyear.com community say they miss most.
1. Full English Breakfast
Andrew 1990 says his most missed food is a full English breakfast complete with hash browns. A full English is a pretty simple concept to us Brits, but as I know from discussing the specialised dish around the world, it confuses a lot of people. Beans, toast, eggs, sausages, bacon and tomatoes, all together, on one plate? Yes, that’s the way we like it. And hot. please make sure it’s hot. Cold beans are not fun.
Even if you do happen to spot a sign abroad leading to full English breakfast nirvana, it’s doubtful it’ll even come close to the taste of the ones from home. Timings, please! The ketchup is always second rate too.
I love to see what the locals have for breakfast around the world, and I’d urge you to do the same. Save the full English for home time.
2. Proper fish and chips
For me, this is the big one. Along with my two suggestions below, proper fish and chips makes up my Holy Trinity of food I miss while travelling.
During my 14 months away I’ve craved the salty, vinegary goodness and usually always give in when I come back. I can’t actually recall seeing one proper chip shop in all the places I’ve been on my travels, and call me negative, but I’d say none of them know how to batter a fish or fry a chip the way us Brits do. Or pickle an egg.
Unless you’re travelling in Europe you’ll probably find it difficult to get your hands on some proper cheese. In the US they process it so much it fits in tubes, Chinese people are well known for not eating it at all and in India, it’s generally paneer or nothing.
For HDSimmons it’s one of the foods she misses most, and AmberMarie is on the same wavelength:
I usually find myself craving cheese when I’m out of the UK for a long time – the funny thing is, once I’m back and have access to all the cheese I could possibly want, the craving just disappears! – AmberMarie
You can’t always have what you want, hey Amber?
I’m actually from where Marmite is made, in Burton on Trent. As kids, when everyone else would hold their nose as they went past the factory, I’d take a big gulp and breathe that delicious elixir into my lungs. I used to be obsessed with the stuff, slathering it on bread until I knew you’d be able to see the teeth marks. Unfortunately the amount of bread / crumpets and butter I’d add to the Marmite also meant I got pretty fat on it, so I have to limit my intake now.
The thought of Marmite-coated freshly baked bread, slice after slice, has me weak at the knees when I’m sick of the offerings abroad. Marmite-flavoured things are just no substitute.
And whatever the Australians say, Vegemite is shite.
5. Proper milk on cereal
Another one for the list from HDSimmons: proper milk on cornflakes. The white stuff is so different around the world – have you been to the USA? They have over 30 varieties to choose from, it’s crazy.
I’ve also had a lot of breakfasts in hostels where they don’t even chill the milk – WTF is that?
Sort it out world.
6. Bacon butties with HP Sauce and Heinz ketchup
No one does bacon like Brits do bacon. I know; I’ve made a point of trying it around the world. They either leave too much fat on, which means that when you bite into the bap you pull out the whole fatty piece in one, and it slaps on your chin leaving the imitation ketchup all over your face. Or the bacon is made too crispy and has no substance.
In my opinion the best bacon sandwiches feature three slices of bacon, all cooked for different lengths of time to enhance the layers of flavour, and in a brown bread soft roll with the sauces layered in between. A slight push on the top of the bun before serving encourages the bacon juices to seep into the bread. I challenge you to find that abroad.
Another great hearty dish. The pie of the shepherd is an absolute champion among the Great British dish possibilities.
Gapper Arry gets his mum to get one on the table for his arrival home and I think I shall start to follow his lead. Easy on the Worcestershire sauce mum!
Mine would definitely be Shepherd’s Pie – that’s what I get my mum to make me when I get home. Ready and waiting for me in the oven – Arry
8. Roast dinner
And on the 7th day God made a first class roast dinner – my God did anyway. Just like the full English I feel like the almighty Sunday roast dinner is a concept only really understood in the UK. To be fair, even when I’m home I rarely eat a roast dinner out, fearing that it will pale miserably in comparison to my dear mother’s.
It’s just so hard to get the timing right and I wouldn’t trust anyone in any other country to get that gravy just the way I like it.
As aluded to by Kaya and by me, chocolate around the world can be pretty rubbish. In some countries it starts to go white in the heat, in others they only have Hersheys, but if you’re in Switzerland you’ve lucked out. If you can afford it that is.
I really miss English chocolate – it just tastes a bit shit everywhere else. But I think what I miss more is sitting around with my mates eating said chocolate. Love a good binge and bitch with my mates! – KayaKaya69
10. Tea and biscuits
I’ll admit, I’m not that into biscuits, apart from chocolate digestives, and if they’re ever about it’s only right to eat the whole pack. I know from having the “what food do you miss” conversation around the world that English biscuits are usually high on the agenda for foods Brits miss.
Pack them in your suitcase if you have space, and use them to buy friends. Or eat them in a corner of the hostel common room by yourself while looking at people in a creepy way.
Custard Creams and Bourbon Creams are just NOT the same abroad, even if you buy them from one of those British shops you talked about. They’re always just that little bit soggier and grimmer and basically just don’t work, especially in hot countries– KayaKaya69
11. Cucumber sandwiches
And if anyone who isn’t British is reading, of course we miss our afternoon tea and cucumber sandwiches. Sometimes the Queen even comes too.
One of my favourite gappers sums the whole conversation really well.
I find it’s often less the food itself that I miss than a sort of nostalgic memory of sitting at a proper pub with friends, drinking cider and eating typical British food whilst either a) it’s freezing outside and we are by a roaring fire, or b) it’s the middle of summer and we are in a lovely beer garden. Haha, as you can tell this is a very idealised image but it’s this sort of atmosphere that is more difficult to replicate whilst travelling, rather than the food itself – AmberMarie
When it comes to food abroad, it’s always best to go local. A Sunday roast will never taste the same on the beaches of Belize, and nor should it – lobster all the way!